Monday, December 20, 2010

sisters, sisters......

Every year around Christmas time, my sisters and I watch "White Christmas." It's one of my favorite holiday movies. The performance of "Sisters, Sisters...." is one of our favorite. We're often heard singing it to each other throughout the year. I really love my sisters and feel very blessed to have them as sisters.

The other day when I attended the Jingle Jam with Wendy, I became a bit envious. All of Wendy's kids and her sisters kids attend the same elementary school. And, they all live within about a half mile of each other. As if that weren't enough, they all meet at Wendy's house each morning with their kids to finish getting ready and take the kids to school. There was definitely a pang of jealousy in me when I learned that.

I adore my sisters and wish that I got to see them everyday. My closest sister lives about 250 miles away in Hurricane, UT. I see CJ a handful of times throughout the year. I stay with her twice a year when I do the St. George tri and the Kokopelli tri. If I ever decide to do the St. George marathon again, she'll provide me with lodging for that as well. She also comes to Provo a few times a year--usually involving the Hurricane State Football championship game or some other sports related event. Sadly, when I see CJ it is only briefly and it is rare that her kids (and sometimes even her husband) are around. I wish they were closer so I knew those nieces and nephews better. I will take what little time I get with CJ as she is a busy mom of 4 teenagers.

My next closest sister lives about 280 miles away, at least for 10 more days. When Meggie got married, Jonathan took her away! Yes, he still had school to finish and his school was BYU-Idaho. But, still, we once lived within 5 miles of each other and spent a good deal of time together. I did go visit them in Rexburg over the summer (and ran a half marathon while I was there). Jonathan has been great and brought Meggie down to visit several times. Each of their visits are so fantastic and I've grown to love Jonathan more and more with each visit. Now, not only has Meggie left Utah, she will soon be leaving the country. She and her cute husband and heading to China for several months. It's an exciting adventure for them, but Meggie will be dearly missed. The best part, I have an excuse to visit China now! I can't wait for that.

And then, there's Mandy. Mandy lives 1200 miles away in Texas. I go visit her every year and she is good about coming to Utah. But, gone are the days of diet coke and a crossword puzzle in the history department. And, now that Mandy has 2 adorable kids, it will be even harder for her to make the trek to Utah for some sister time. I went to visit Mandy for Thanksgiving this year and boy was that trip not what we had planned. We were both looking forward to some good sister time; Mandy's last hurrah before baby number 2 came along in January. Well, Lucky's brother had other ideas and he just didn't want to wait until January. That cutie-pie decided November was a better time to arrive. I had a fantastic time with Lucky, but Mandy and I missed out on some good sister time. We did the best to cram a week's worth of playing into 24 hours, but it just wasn't enough.

As Wendy told me about the fun with her sisters, it really did make me a bit jealous. I thought how fun it would be to live within a mile of all my sisters, to see each other everyday, to have our kids (well, not that all of us have kids or any school aged kids for that matter) attend the same school, to enjoy play dates at the park. I miss having my sister's around to watch a good (bad?) made for TV movie with me. I'd love to see CJ and more of her kids' sporting events. I wish I was around to help Mandy right now and spend time with Maddy watching Monsters, Inc and playing outside. I wish Meggie was around to help me feel hip and cool and do fun crafting projects. Hopefully one day we will all live closer to each other. Until then, I will just have to enjoy what little time I do get with them. And, at least we can talk all we want thanks to mobile-to-mobile minutes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

jingle jam

The original plan for today called for me to meet Wendy at Pizzeria 712 in Orem. When we talked last night she told me, "I know there's something going on but I can't for the life of me remember what it is. It must not be that important otherwise I'd totally remember it." She completely forgot it was the Jingle Jam at her kid's elementary school. Oops! Just blame it on chemo brain.

So, instead of an uneventful lunch at Pizzeria 712. We grabbed lunch from Flour Girls & Dough Boys and headed over to her kid's elementary school. We met up with her sisters, who also have kids attending the same elementary school and prepared ourselves for some mind blowing entertainment.

Here are the highlights (er, low lights) of the event:
  • I was accosted! OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. However, the woman sitting behind me had about 15 different cameras and recording devices. Once her child had completed their performance, she decided it was time for her to leave. She loaded up her camera bag that weighed about  37 pounds, turned to leave and bonked me in the head with it. Who knew a kids concert would be such a dangerous place.
  • It was interesting to note the different ways parents recorded the performance. One parent on the video camera, one on their phone, snapping still shots with a phone, DSLR, point & shoot or anything else they could get their hands on. There were even people with tripods set up. I had no idea that a kids concert elicited such professional documentation.
  • I was sitting with the cool kids. Seriously, Wendy & her gang are pretty rad! We laughed, we joked, we had a great time. We were completely entertained by their kids and the antics of all the other kids in the school.
  • I ran into a former neighbor who I hadn't seen in about 6 or 7 years. It was so nice to chat and catch-up. And to learn that her oldest son has turned in his mission papers. I'm always amazed at how these youngsters grow up---especially since I don't seem to age a day.
I forgot how much fun a kids Christmas program could be. I'm so glad that our lunch turned into "lunch and a show." I always have a great time with Wendy, but this event definitely took the cake! Even if (very briefly) I did feel like I was being held hostage.

Monday, December 13, 2010

i choose to believe

I have a 9 year old niece who still believes in the wonder of Santa Claus. Not having children, I don't know at what age they quit believing and start to question. However, I think there is something special about this child. She is the most logical and rational kid you'll ever meet. Seriously! She once convinced her mom to let her have cookies for breakfast (true story!) She was 6 at the time and she wanted cookies for breakfast. Her mom informed her that cookies were not a breakfast food, but rather a dessert. She immediately shot back that they have donuts for breakfast sometimes and they also have donuts for dessert sometimes. How were cookies any different than donuts? She got cookies for breakfast that day. So, it is shocking that this brilliant, rational child still believes that a fat man in a red suit travels the world on Christmas Eve and delivers presents to all the children of the world. On some level, I think she knows it isn't possible. But ultimately, I think she wants to believe; because there is something magical about believing.

Believing isn't always easy. There is lots in this world that makes me not want to believe. There is so much hurt, pain, heartache and sadness in this world. I've definitely seen my share. It sometimes seems that there are only those awful events and experiences to be had in life. Life can be hard! Some days it just seems easier to give up, to quit believing and just accept a miserable rotten life. I've definitely felt this way in my life and certainly over the past few weeks. But even amongst all the sadness and heartache I still believe!

I realize as a grown woman it my be corny to still believe, but trust me I do. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that I can make the US Olympic team (even though I'm not an expert at any sport). I believe that someday I will grow 2 more inches (because I've always dreamed of being 5'10"). I believe that someday I will make perfect cupcakes (because I already make perfect cookies!) I believe that someday I will find my soul-mate, my perfect match, my dream guy and I'll marry him. I believe (even as a woman of my age) that I will be blessed with a child of my own. I believe in magic and fairy tales and pixie dust and unicorns and the happy ending.

While the notion defies all logic and rationale, much like my niece, I believe in Santa Claus. Maybe not the literal being, but all that he represents. You see, I'd rather believe in happiness, hope, kindness, love and even a little magic. And so, everyday I choose to believe!

Friday, August 27, 2010

my first published work

I know, I've been terrible about posting to this blog, but I have a good reason; I swear! About a month ago I was approached by a friend who is working with an online triathlete resource. They post articles, product reviews, race reviews--everything a triathlete needs to race better & faster in one location. They asked if I'd be willing to write an article about my experience with trail running.

Well, that article got published! I know that technically, I am already "published" every time I post to this here blog. However, to have someone else ask me to write and then to actually use what I wrote is the best. I'm so thrilled and hope to do more writing for them in the future (do you hear that @triathletesedge?)

Here you go: read all about how I take it to the trails!

Friday, August 13, 2010

my 3 days as a chip checker

Trust me, the job wasn't as glamorous as you're thinking. I know--chip checker, you're thinking I got to taste test chips and see if they were edible for human consupmtion and determine their quality. This job was so far removed from that. I did however, get all the free Frito Lays products I could consume in my 10 minute break.
This story is going to take a while to develop, but stick with me, I promise it will be worth it. The whole reason I even thought of my days as a chip checker are actually related to my current job. As part of my training, I have to spend an evening sorting mail at the facility--not really what I was expecting. Because, in reality, it's not "part of my training." This is their way of making all employees feel like equals. I'm not exactly sure how my spending 3 hours in the warehouse makes me "part of the team." You see, tomorrow morning, I'll put my college education to good use, get dressed in cute clothes and continue to call on customers. I have no problem doing manual labor. I have no problem spending some time in the operations side of things. I just don't like the reasons why I've been told by management. I don't like that I have to do it so that those working in the warehouse think I "feel their pain" and "understand their job" and other such nonsense. Because, let's be honest, it's not like I'm going to spend a day with the executives of the company learning their jobs! So, because of my attitude toward spening 3 hours sorting mail, I was called "entitled." I actually think "elitest" would be a better term, but I'm not here to make qualifications on my entitled elitism.
Well, I was actually quite bothered about being called entitled; and not because I disagree, I can totally admit to feeling entitled. I have a college education and because of that education doors have been opened to me in the realm of employment. So, yes, I do feel entitled to the jobs I apply for, the jobs I am offered, the jobs I work. I paid my dues in the form of 4 years at a university. And, even with all that, if I needed to work to support my family and the only job available was in a warehouse, I guarantee I'd work every day (without complaint) to care for my family. That's just who I am. What I realized is this: many people don't know my background, the jobs I've had in the past and the things I've done (no, nothing illegal, or unethical or immoral) to pay the bills.

This all brings up back to the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. I was back in Texas (oh, how I love Texas!) I'd applied for several jobs, talk to temp agencies about summer work and even applied for a paid internship at GTE (General Telephone Exchange---which I'm pretty sure no longer exists!) Well, I hadn't heard back from GTE (my first choice of a summer job) or from any of the other places I'd applied. So, there I was with Jessica (my dear and funny friend) and Justin (my brother) sitting in the office of an employment agency after being home for almost 2 weeks. The woman across from us had a job to offer. It was only temporary and certainly wasn't a job we were looking for (we did want to build our resumes and skills for post-college employment) but it was a paying job. So, all three of us agreed that together it wouldn't be so bad and we'd take the work!

Thus began my 3 days as a chip checker for Frito Lay. (I don't know that "chip checker" was our official title, but its the title we gave ourselves.) The next morning we awoke at the unearthly hour of 3am (ok, it was probably closer to 5am, but I was a college student it felt like 3am). My brother and I left our house to pick up Jessica and then headed on out to the Frito Lay plant in Plano, Texas. We arrived at 7am with our brown sack lunches and bleary eyed from the early hour. (In fact, I'm pretty sure that Jessica and I made my brother drive and slept in the back seat) It was then that we met Carlos (I remember because he had a gold chain necklace with his name in beautiful gold cursive that he wore each day) and "supervisor guy" (I really wish I could remember his name, but I can't) It was also here that we learned exactly what our duties would be as "chip checkers." You see, they'd shipped a batch of original Lay's potato chips over the rockies and back. Apparently, this is not how transports are to take place. Because when bags of chips go over and back the air pressure does something to the bags (some get over full of air, some bags explode, some have no air left in them and others are still intact and acceptable to be displayed on the grocery store shelves). So, the 4 of us were tasked with checking the air volume of each bag of chips and sorting them--garbage or back into a box for shipment to a retailer.

As you can imagine, after about 20 minutes, this job became quite tedious. The clock moved very slowly until it was time for our break. At the deisgnated time, a whistle would blow (ok it was really more of a signal sounding) indicating that everyone on the warehouse flor could take a break. Everyone's work day started at the same time, breaks were at the same time, lunch was at the same time and we all ended our day together. So, when the whistle blew, we took our break. The best part of the break---because we were in a Frito Lay plant, there were all sorts of Frito Lay treats free for the taking. Suddenly this job was looking up!

And so it continued for 3 days. Wakig up early, heading to the plant, taking our breaks and lunches at the designated hour. "Supervisor guy" was very funny and entertaining. He gave us all nicknames--I was "senator" because I was majoring in Political Science. He drove his fork lift over to check on us; brought us new palets of chips to sort though and in general looked out for us crazy college students doing this job.

Needless to say, with all the boredome, we had to come up with some way to entertain ourselves! So, by 10am on day 2 found the solution. When a bag of chips is so full of air it's about to explode, it's very easy to pop the bag and spary chips all over the person at who it's aimed. Well, that's excatly what began. And by the end of the day the three of us were covered in chip crumbs and the stentch of deep fried potatoes. We made a complete mess of the corner of the warehouse where they had stashed us, but had so much fun working those 3 days.

So, I worked my 3 hours at the facility the other day. I learned mail is dirty! I learned the process of how things arrive, are checked in, scanned and sent on their way. I even spent 3 hours scanning, sorting and tagging a bin of mail. I learned the process that they wanted me to learn to help me with my job. However, this second go round of working in a warehouse I learned so much more. Back in college, I was far to young, naive and entitled to learn the lessons that I learned this past week.

First, I was put to shame by the women I was working with. They were far faster and more efficient than I was at the task at hand.

Second, these women are hard workers! There was no chit-chat, no goofing off, nothing but hard work. They got to work immediately and didn't quit unti lthe job was done.

Third, and most important in my opinion, I learned why many of these women were there working from 5pm to midnight. Yes, this is not an educated group of people, but this is a good job that pays well. But, the real reason they work this shift--it allows them to be home with their kids. These women are dedicated to creating a better life for their families and are willing to do what they must to make that happen.

I'm sure back in college when I worked in a plant/factory/warehouse many of the people working at Frito Lay were in the same situation. But, at the time I was too entitled to realize that. But now, I'm not the same person. I recongize and appreciate the work others do; work that I am grateful I don't have to do. I am grateful for the doors that are opened to me because I had the opportunity to continue my education post high school. But, more than anything I'm grateful that I was given a second opportunity to learn the lessons that I should have learned back when I was a chip checker.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

it's been a while my friend.....

I swear I'm back. Back from my vacation; back from my illness; back from the blahs of not wanting to post. I promise you at least one real post this week (maybe even 2 if I'm feeling crazy!) In fact I'm working on a good one right now---all about my funniest summer job (and yes, it was a real, live, paying job!) I only hope its worth the wait.....

Friday, July 9, 2010

and........i'm off

Not that I've been a very good blogger lately, but at least this next week I'll have an excuse. I'm off for a week in Grenada. I'll be completely unplugged--no phone, no computer, no email (unless I can convince my gf to let me borrow hers), no twitter, nothing! (And, I'm so looking forward to it!) I promise to come back with stories and maybe even some pictures (if I can remember to get my camera out!)

Miss me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

park city mini-trail series, 5k edition (& a giveaway)

Saturday was the first in a 3 race series for the Park City Mini-Trail Race. The entire series is dedicated to getting people off the roads and onto the trails. If you've never tried trail running, it's definitely something you should. Utah has some of the best trails and the views are ridiculous!

Saturday was the 5K. This was a great event! Most of the trail races I've done in the past have been over 10 miles and on crazy courses! The Park City Mini-Trail Series is a completely different event. The course was fantastic--nothing too difficult to climb, but still challenging enough to make you feel like a "tough chick" when you cross the finish line. And, you couldn't have asked for my perfect weather for a trail run.

The best part about this race: the race director is herself a trail runner. I've learned in all my years of racing that the best races are put on by athletes--they just know what people are looking for in a good race. The course was clearly marked. There were plenty of volunteers on the course to direct you if there were any questions. The pre-race emails were informative and helpful. And, there was no race shirt--ok, I know what some of you are thinking, No shirt?!? Well, as someone who has done a number of races over the years, I need another cheap, ill-fitting race shirt like I need a whole in my head. Instead of a shirt we got a very cool draw sting bag that's perfect for the gym! And, I happen to know that the items at future races are just as great.

I've been very lucky to personally know the race director for the Park City Mini-Trial Series. In fact, Rhielle is the person who got me into trail running. It's her passion for trail running that led her to organize this trial series. She was even on Good Things Utah to discuss trail running and it's benefits (and, you'll find out just how easy and fun trail running can be!)

In an effort to continue spreading the passion for trail running, I'm giving away one entry into the Park City Mini-Trail Series 10K on July 10th. Even if you've never done a trail run and have merely thought it might be fun, this is the perfect race to get started!

To enter, leave a comment telling my what motivates you to get out and run, walk, hike, bike, hit the gym, swim, do yoga or whatever it is you're passionate about.

**Entries will be accepted until Friday, July 2nd at 8pm Mountain Time. The winner will be randomly selected and emailed with instructions on how to register for the race. Please be sure to include your email so I can contact you.

***This is not a sponsored giveaway. Yes, the Park City Mini-Trail Series race director is a friend of mine, but she is not sponsoring this giveaway.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

i'm just disappointed

Recently I started a new job. This is a job that I absolutely love--I work with great people, for a great company and I'm finally back doing outside sales (something I truly love and am very good at) With this new job comes some travel. Because of the company that I work for, I am required to fly Southwest (not because of cost but because of a partnership they have) For years I've heard how amazing Southwest Airlines is--great customer service, always on-time, such a fun airline, and on and on. Well, my experience has been none of those things. In fact, its been the polar opposite.

Last week, I flew to Southern California. Because of reasons I don't understand, I can't get a direct flight from SLC to California. Not really a big deal. However, on this initial leg of my trip, both flights were delayed. Now, remember what everyone has been telling me? Well, that didn't hold true. Not really a huge deal, but a little frustrating and I got to spend a good chunk of time in the Phoenix airport. With an over 2 hour layover, you'd think they would manage to get my baggage onto my next flight. Well, some how my "bags fly free" piece of checked luggage didn't make it to the Orange County airport on my flight. And, I wasn't the only person with this problem.

After deplaning, I headed to baggage claim to get my luggage. After about 15 minutes, you begin to realize that its all the same luggage you see ridding around the baggage carousel and as much as you keep believing your luggage will magically appear, it just doesn't! So, me and about a dozen of my fellow passengers head over to the Southwest baggage office. You'd think that with that number of people involved in a "lost luggage" situation, they could at least offer an apology. Not even close! All I was told was that my luggage was still in Phoenix and they hoped it would show up on the next flight and I could come pick it up then. Well, on this particular trip, I wasn't getting a rental car so no, I couldn't come pick up my luggage in a few hours. The lady agreed to have it delivered to my hotel. She also promised a phone call when the next flight arrived, around 8:20, to let me know if my luggage had indeed made the trip and would soon be delivered to my hotel. Well, finally around 10pm when I hadn't heard from Southwest, I called the baggage office. I was informed that yes, my luggage had arrived and would "be on the 10pm delivery." When I inquired what that meant, the woman rudely informed me it meant my luggage would be delivered to me. Obviously, I knew it would be delivered but I didn't understand the "10pm delivery." As far I was concerned, that meant at 10pm my luggage would be arriving at the hotel. Again, not even close! The woman on the phone treated me as if I were an idiot and rudely explained to me what the "10pm delivery" actually meant. Apparently, Southwest luggage delivery is akin to the cable company--my luggage would arrive at my hotel sometime between 10pm and 2am.

Now, I will take some responsibility for my errors when packing. However, I've never had my luggage lost before (and I've traveled a fair amount). I made the mistake of packing my medications in my checked bag and now, at 10pm I was experiencing great anxiety. It was imperative that I have my luggage in the morning so I could take my medication. I realized at about 11pm there was nothing I could do but go to sleep and hope my luggage was at the hotel in the morning. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep very well (remember that anxiety) and at 3am woke up, called the front desk and headed down to retrieve my luggage.

The next couple of days spent in California were great. I enjoyed working with some of my co-workers, dinner on the beach and a general a nice, uneventful business trip. I figured my return trip would not be anything like my journey to California and certainly, I would experience some of this greatness that is flying Southwest Airlines. The reality of my trip could not have been further from this thought.

My return trip was out of the Ontario airport. And again, my flight was delayed. I'm beginning to believe that an on time Southwest flights is like a unicorn--I've heard rumors of their existence, but it's just a bunch of lies. Well, we did finally leave the Ontario airport headed to Las Vegas and this is where the trip becomes increasingly interesting; and by interesting I mean the most frustrating flying experience I've ever had!

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, I notice that my flight is delayed by 30 minutes. Not a big deal at this point, it's just par for the course. However, at about 30 minute intervals, the flight is continually delayed by 30 minutes. So, my fight that was scheduled for a 6:55pm departure keeps getting later and later. And, come to find out, it's not just my flight--EVERY Southwest flight departing out of Las Vegas is delayed (no other airline is experiencing this problem). Around 8pm, our gate agent gets on the intercom and informs us that our flight is still delayed and it has something to do with Air Traffic Control and the number of flights and some nonsense. Well, I'm not a genius, but I'm pretty sure that ATC deals with the issues of getting flights into and out of airports everyday. And, I'm also pretty certain that the number of flights on any given day is pretty consistent. So, this whole story is not making any sense. And, why is Southwest the only airline that is dealing with ATC issues?

Needless to say, the passengers waiting around the terminal are getting more and more frustrated with the passing time. We're getting no answers and only a delayed flight time. We finally learn that our plane is coming from San Francisco and it hasn't left the airport yet. Once it leaves, it will arrive in Las Vegas in about an hour at which point in time we can board and head to Salt Lake. In the meantime, there is an 8:40 flight to Salt Lake (which of course is also delayed). Well, not only does that flight leave before ours, it actually lands in Salt Lake City before our plane even takes-off. Yes, there were some very upset passengers in the terminal waiting for my flight.

When we finally did board our plane at around 10:45pm (almost 4 hours late), the entire crew on that plane was just unpleasant. I get that they were tired; however, so were all the passengers boarding that flight. And, we weren't paid to be there. We were inconvenienced by the inability of Southwest Airlines to manage their flight schedule. We did finally arrive in Salt Lake at close to 1am. And, the silver lining, at least when I arrived at baggage claim, my luggage was there and not stranded in Las Vegas or some other random part of the country.

As I said, I'm mostly disappointed in Southwest Airlines (it does me no good to be mad at them). Here's why I'm disappointed and what I think they could have done to better meet the needs of their clients:
  1. All of my experiences speaking with employees of Southwest Airlines were awful. I was treated like an idiot because I didn't understand the Southwest lingo or way of doing things. First and foremost, I'm your client! Apologize for my inconvenience and then explain to me what you're going to do--and explain it as if I'm unfamiliar with your procedures (because I am)
  2. Southwest is on Twitter. If you're going to have a Twitter account as a business, you should actually use it. During the entire ordeal, I was tweeting about how awful things were, my disappointment with Southwest and the need for an explanation (and I wasn't the only one). I did not once receive a response from Southwest via Twitter. I pulled their account, they do reply to some people on there, but it seems they only reply to the people who are happy with their service. Well, note to the powers that be--you should really be replying to the people who are frustrated with your service. People will tell 15 people about a bad experience and only 1 person about a good experience. 
  3. When a flight is delayed for 4 hours, do something for the passengers that are stranded! A sincere apology always goes a long way. But even a small gesture would have been nice--several passengers just wanted something from Southwest. Offer a free drink coupon for this or a future flight, meet us at the gate in Salt Lake with a tram so all the weary travelers don't have to walk a mile to baggage claim, have your flight crew at least acknowledge us as we exit the plane (yes, they were standing at the exit, but even when addressed they didn't respond to a single passenger that I saw!)
I really hope that this experience was completely removed from the normal situation at Southwest Airlines. Because, unfortunately, I will be flying Southwest in the future. And, if all my experiences are like this I just might lose it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

charity cake monday

Apparently, Monday is charity cake day. I learned this from the incomparable Jay! On Monday, I left one job to start a new one the next day. Of course, Jay and I had to spend my last day of freedom enjoying lunch on the Trio patio and delivering cakes for Charity Cake Monday!

Who's Jay? you may be asking yourself. Well, I could go on for hours about the fun thing I attend with Jay--Oscar parties, HRC Galas, Utah Arts Council events and more. But, all you really need to know is this: American Express, eBay, Jay Shaffer!

Yes, he comes in third to these other large organizations and he's okay with that!

But, back to Charity Cake Monday. You see, Jay loves Betty Crocker (yes, the maker of the all the mixes and tubs of frosting) and he loves a coupon. As such, he has hundreds of boxed cake mixes and tubs of frosting just waiting to be used. It wasn't unusual to have a couple of cakes or a few dozen cupcakes sitting int he break room on Monday morning (this was back when I worked with Jay and got to see him everyday!) Now that Jay has been in Salt Lake for 18 months, he has his own consulting firm and is heavily involved in several charities (he's a giver!) The cakes are no longer for the staff but are now designated for all his various charities (or the occasional to the doggie day care where LJ--the cutest three-legged chihuahua you've ever seen--spends his time). Hence, he's adopted Charity Cake Monday as one of his new "causes"! And of course, Charity Cake day falls on Monday; Sunday is the perfect day to bake.

So, this past Monday, my last day of freedom before starting this new job (more to come about this later, I promise), I had the privilege of being a participant in Charity Cake Monday. After tying up a few loose ends, I met Jay for lunch (one of our favorite dining experiences--a gorgeous Monday on the Cafe Trio patio; we're "ladies who lunch"!) Upon meeting him, I learned we had a few cakes to deliver before and after lunch. So, before heading into Trio we stopped at Planned Parenthood. For anyone who has never had the opportunity, witnessing Jay in action is a treat! We run into the building; a cake is dropped on to a desk; Jay says "tell them Jay Shaffer stopped by" and we're out! No fan-fare; because of course everyone knows Jay Shaffer!

The next cake is delivered after lunch to the Utah Museum of Natural History. Again, we run in with a cake with the intention of running out quickly. I guess Jay is far more popular at the museum as we were there for a total of 3 minutes (as opposed to the 30 seconds at Planned Parenthood). The few people we saw at the museum were so thrilled and grateful to have received a cake! The funniest thing Jay said upon leaving the museum, "Why give $10 to the homeless shelter when for a $1.75 you can win the love of an entire museum!" (and, for those who don't know Jay--he is the most kind, generous and giving person I know! so, if you're offended by this statement, you obviously don't know Jay!)

I can't wait until I get to participate in Charity Cake Monday again. And, maybe someday I'll start my own version of Charity Cake Monday (which will most definitely include cupcakes! and probably cookies) Now, I just need to find some charities that are deserving of my amazing baking. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

just a small town race

 *me nearing the finish line in my "cute shoes"

I recently completed the Teton Dam Half Marathon; an event that takes place in Rexburg, Idaho--the epitome of a small town. You may be asking yourself--why would I run a race in Rexburg? Simply put, Meggie & her new husband live there and invited me to stay with them and run the race.

This was my first visit to the little town of Rexburg, Idaho and I guess my sister wanted to show me a good time! Upon arriving, we decided to head tot he local farmer's market. I'm not joking when I say there were about a dozen vendors. We were able to get a scone (the size of Texas! with raspberry butter & honey butter, delish!!) and some corn on the cob (also pretty amazing) to enjoy while we perused the offerings (about 12 times before we finished eating our treats) We decided to get some rhubarb and a watermelon. The rhubarb was no big deal to get home. However, we should have done a bit more planning if we were going to get a watermelon. Did I mention we rode bikes to the farmer's market? And, did I mention we had no means by which to carry a watermelon home? (The wise thing would have been to bring a backpack, but we definitely weren't wise that afternoon) Let's just say, Rexburg was very entertained watching us get that watermelon home (and I have the bruised arm to prove it!)

Later that evening, we headed to packet pick-up and the pre-race potato dinner (hello, this is Idaho! of course it was potatoes!) Packet pick-up was relatively fast and easy. They didn't even check photo ID--I'm guessing they knew 90% of the registrants. Then on to our potato dinner. The dinner was a bit disappointing---so few toppings for my potato! At least there was lots of cheese, but no bacon! No chives! Luckily, there were some delicious brownies (the prefect pre-race carbohydrate!) There was also a "pre-race briefing" of which I couldn't hear a word! Who uses a megaphone in a school cafeteria?!? My expectations for the next days race were dramatically lowered.

Race morning! The race started at 7:30am. Silly me thought I should be there around 7am. And so, my brother-in-law dutifully dropped me off at Smith Park at 7am; I was about 25 minutes too early! Being used to much larger races and races where I needed to catch a bus or train to the start, I significantly over-estimated my arrival time. And, I apparently didn't pay attention to the fact that only 400 people were allowed to run the half marathon. Before starting, the race director did a great job of laying out the course, markings, signs, mile markers, volunteers, etc. to help us all get through the race. And then we were off!

Here are the race highlights:
  1. wind
  2. wind
  3. TONS of volunteers (I heard there was 1 volunteer to every 4 racers--an unheard of number; must be the "Dam Volunteer" shirt they all receive)
  4. wind
  5. being caught by the kid (later learned he was 22) I was using to draft and block the wind
  6. said kid thinking I thought he smelled good being the reason I was sticking so close to him
  7. more wind
  8. hills from mile 4 to mile 9+
  9. learning that all Rexburg has is the university (BYU-Idaho) and WalMart
  10. the fact that having a WalMart is something to brag about
  11. did I mention the wind? because it was relentless
  12. hearing 2 girls discuss my "cute shoes" after running through an aid station
  13. having a girl tell me, "I love your shoes, they're so cute!" at the next aid station
  14. seeing my sister & brother-in-law at the finish line
  15. beating that 22 year old kid after telling him at mile 6 "it's going to be embarrassing for you when you get beat by an almost 40 year old woman!"
All in all the Teton Dam Half Marathon was a great race. After my lowered expectation from the previous night, I was blown away at how well this race was organized! I absolutely loved the race in spite of the wind and all the hills. And, it was a great weekend with family.

**And, if you're looking for a fun race, don't forget there is an awesome 5k trail run in Park City on June 26th. Use the promo code: blog5k and you'll get 50% off your race entry!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the joy of trail running

You've heard me talk about trail running before. Remember my experience at Kenebec? You can read about it here: part 1 and part 2. Well, that same company that I wrote those blog posts for is making an offer to all readers of my blog. Register for the Park City Mini-Trail series 5K and use the promo code blog5k and you'll get 50% off registration. That makes the price for this great race only $17! You'll get to experience how great trail running is (it's a perfect beginner friendly trail) and get a cool shirt and a great swag bag!

Please come join me for a great race. And, help support my amazing friend, Rhielle (read this post if you want to know why I love Rhielle so much!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

showing a little love

Remember the cute picture from Meggie's wedding? The one where we decided to pick her up? Yeah, its one of my favorites too!

This seems to be a theme in the Stratton family. For some reason, we like to pick people up in pictures. I mentioned in Meggie's wedding post that there was a great picture of all the sisters holding up my Pops. I even put out a request of the photo and someone heard my wishes. Ironically, it was my mom (the woman who can't upload, email or send a photo--yet she figured out how to do it--way to go mom!) who sent me the photo. So, since she went to so much trouble to get it to me, I thought I'd share:

I absolutely LOVE this photo!! I think we all look so great. Plus, how fun is it that we're all in dresses and heels (ok, the bride was actually in tennis shoes---sorry to spill that secret Mandy) and we're holding up my Pops. It's a great picture that always makes me smile!

And, here's a bonus photo:

It seems we always like to pick up the bride on her special day as well!

Friday, June 4, 2010

it's a serious competition

*Even Yo-Gabba-Gabba wanted to get in on the action. Fortunately, we never had to implement
an interference policy. He just wanted to have some fun!
One of the best parts of a holiday weekend, at least around my family, is the obstacle course. Everyone participates. Everyone has fun. And there are always prizes.

This event is typically organized by my Pops and my mom always comes up with some great prizes (think toys from the dollar store and Peruvian candies) These are complicated events. Each participant must possess skill, dexterity, speed, agility and the ability to not be embarrassed by looking like a fool. The obstacle course is truly a highlight of any holiday weekend. Once the course has been run by each participant, my Pops takes great care and effort to utilize spread sheets to calculate the winners. All scores are tallied, averaged, numbers are extracted and serious calculation takes place. Upon completion of the task, winners are declared and prizes are awarded in an awards ceremony that is only topped by the Oscars.

Sadly, with my parents off on an exotic vacation (serving an LDS mission in Peru) the organization of the events were left to Meggie and me. Meggie designed a simple, yet fun course. Kick a small volleyball (I guess she couldn't find a soccer ball?!?) to the line. From there run to the "cul-d-sac" of the backyard, spin three times and toss a frisbee into a buck. Proceed to ladder golf and toss 3 pieces (and hope to earn a few bonus seconds). From there run to the three balls---one basketball & 2 rubber 4-square balls. Toss all three into the bin (and try not to hit the kid holding the bin sturdy in the face). Sprint up the hill and tag the timer to stop the clock. It's a very high tech timing system we employ for the event. With the kids left to run the show, there were no spread sheets involved this year. We reverted back to the stone age and used paper, pen and a stop watch (at least the stop watch was on an iPhone, so we're not that lo-tech!) With simple math we calculate the winners--total time minus any bonus seconds earned on the course.

 *me getting ready to start the course. yes, it is that serious (& that fun)!

Luckily, I keep a stash of candy in my house. We were able to provide some delicious treats to the winners. Grey was very disappointed to not have the overall winning time--Jonathan beat his time .1 seconds (but only after bonus points were deducted). And, if you were wondering, I did have the fastest overall female time--yes, I beat 3 girls under the age of 10, a mother of 6 and my younger sister (and I still feel good about myself!)

Once all prizes are awarded the fun truly begins. You see, everyone wants to beat their previous time, get the fastest overall time or some other equally as worthy goal. The course is run a million more times! The best part--a few of my 25 year old brother's friends were over for a BBQ. We made a couple of them run the course. And then got to tease them for having slower times than a 9 year old girl! Hey, if you take the harassment that is part of the game, then just don't show up at our house on a holiday!

For even more fun pictures, compliments of the AMAZING Meggie, visit our family blog

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

how do you define success?

Over the weekend, I attempted to do my first Olympic distance triathlon. I say attempted, because for the first time in my life I got a DNF. This is difficult to say even as I type this 3 days later. Saturday was a very difficult day for me. I was embarrassed and upset. I was, in my mind at least, a quitter and felt like a complete & utter failure. Quitting is not something I do. Quitting is not something we encourage or teach in our society (or at least in my family) When you start something you finish it! So, how do I come to terms with getting a "did not finish" as my race result?

So, what happened on Saturday that led to a DNF? Truth be told, I felt prepared for the race. I had done an open water swim on Wednesday and had one of the best swims of my life. I'd got in a few good runs and bike rides throughout the week. The night before the race I'd gone through my visualization exercises (yes, I'm a dork!) and felt ready and prepared for anything that might be thrown at me the next day. I packed up my gear and thought I had everything under control and prepared for race day.

On Saturday, I woke up early and went through my "race morning" rituals. I ate my typical breakfast, a piece of toast with peanut butter (if you were wondering). I left with plenty of time to arrive at the race venue, get body marked and get my transition set-up. I was body marked by Shannon and her high energy and excitement made me feel great. As it got closer to the start time, I did final preparations and headed down to the lake. I got in the water for my wave start and began the swim. Half way through the swim, I made the decision that the smartest thing for me was to pull out of the race. And I've been dealing with that choice and how its affected me ever since.

I had several friends racing and my brother and 2 of his kids had come to watch, so I decided to stick around and watch them finish. While hanging near transition, I ran into a couple of people I've met through Rhielle. They were teasing me about not racing (having no idea that I had recently pulled myself out of the race). I explained to them what had happened and their nine your old daughter said to me, "That's NOT acceptable." I completely agreed with her, quitting is NOT acceptable. (As a side note, her father spent the better part of the next 2 hours trying to find me again to apologize. I explained that I completely understood his daughter's reaction--we teach our children that quitting is not acceptable. There are no hard feelings and I still consider them to be dear friends!)

The aftermath of that race made for a miserable Saturday for me. I couldn't get over the feelings of hatred I had for myself. I realize that I am far harder on myself (aren't we all our own worst critic?) than I am on others. Had anybody else told me that they had pulled themselves out of a race I would show nothing but love, care and concern. So, why could I not show myself that same mercy? Why did I have such loathing for actions that I would find acceptable in another? I even began to question everything I knew about myself. I've never quit before, so was I now a quitter? Did I just open up a door to allow myself to quit everything I started? Maybe everything I knew and believed about myself was never true and I didn't know who I was.

After many hours of self-loathing and more tears than I care to admit to, I realized that I could not allow this one incident to define me. How many mishaps (a word I prefer to "failures" when it comes to cooking) have I had in the kitchen over the years? I've had hundreds of mishaps, but have always gone back for more--it's the reason why I now make perfect cookies, amazing pies and continue to show-off my baking skills whenever the opportunity arises. So, why was a "mishap" as an athlete suddenly considered a failure? It took a lot of soul-searching for me to reach this decision: the difference between "success" and "failure" is the choice I make after I fall down. And, the choice I make is to learn from my experience, to pick myself up and try again.

I have to live with the choice on made on Saturday. And every time I am asked about my race, I will have to admit to what happened. And what happened is I didn't cross the finish line of this race on this day. However, I have decided to not allow this one incident to define me. This one choice does not make me a failure. I made a choice, a smart choice, to pull myself out of a race. But, I learned a lot about myself from that race and my decision. I cannot look at myself as a quitter or a failure because I truly haven't quit. (Besides, that word isn't in my vocabulary!) I am not, nor will I ever allow myself to be a failure. I have already picked my next Olympic distance triathlon. And this time I have every intention of crossing the finish line!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

better late than never: all about moms!

thanks Amy for the fabulous pics!

So this post is VERY late in coming. A few weeks back everyone posted all about Mother's Day. Well, I'm finally getting around to my post about Mother's Day. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to write about it. Maybe it's because of all the drama with the Deseret News. Maybe it's because I'm not a mom and so I don't think about it as much. Maybe it's because I was busy writing a guest post about my experience as a trail runner. Or maybe, it's just that sometimes I get busy with life and don't have the time to post to this blog. Regardless of the reason, I'm here now and ready to talk about Mother's.

Since I'm not a mom and since my mom is currently residing out of the country (I'm sure I've mentioned my parent's trek to Peru) I wasn't too concerned about celebrating. Mother's Day. As I got thinking, I realized that I have a lot of friends who are moms, future moms and adopted moms. I decided I wanted to do something nice for some of the people in my life. And what better way to express love than baked goods. I proceeded to make 2 different kids of cupcakes---vanilla bean with butter cream frosting and chocolate sour cream with cream cheese frosting--and took them to some of those special people in my life. Sorry to those of you who live out of state, out of the area or out of country, you missed out on some AMAZING treats (if I do say so myself!) I have been truly blessed in my life to have been raised by a wonderful mother, watch my amazing friends raise their children and be cared for by what I like to call "adoptive moms". Thank you to all of you for your wonderful influence in my life!

Since my mom is out of the country, she asked each of her children to share some of their favorite memories of childhood and life with her. I'm pretty sure I'm the bad daughter who didn't send her anything, but here it is for the world to see, a few of my favorite memories of my mom:
  • She always made birthday's a very special day. We were exempt from all chores, got to pick our favorite meal to have for dinner and she always decorated the birthday girl's (or boy's) chair in streamers and balloons. And, I would always get half the avocado that was intended for the salad sliced up and sitting on my plate (avocados are one of my all time favorite foods! and boy did I feel special getting that much avocado without having to fight 8 other people for it!)
  • I think I'm one of very few children in the world who got a cooked breakfast (eggs, pancakes, french toast, waffles, breakfast burritos, oatmeal) almost every morning growing up. I laugh now that I was so excited when she let us have cold cereal for breakfast---it was such a treat. Now, I'm lucky if I even have time for cold cereal in the morning.
  • As long as we maintained good grades, my mom never had a problem with us skipping school. And yet, I still found it necessary to truly ditch school with the other kids--all I had to do was tell my mom I wasn't going to class, wanted to leave campus for lunch (we technically weren't allowed to leave) or say I wanted to go to Six Flags for the day and she'd make it happen. But, there's something more exciting about ditching school with all your friends whose parents weren't as cool.
  • There's a particular incident involving 9 gallons of milk, a banana, a small rickety cart from the BYU Creamery on 9th and a random person honking. Just the mention of this story makes me, my mom and my sisters start laughing (almost uncontrollably)
 I could go on and on about homemade bread, trips to the sand dunes (your favorite thing, right mom!?!) and crazy (but always funny) things my mom has said over the years. However, I'll leave it at this for now. There are many memories from childhood that my siblings and I often laugh about. It's a wonder my mother survived all of us! And, I can't believe we didn't get in more trouble for the antics we pulled. So yes, it may be late, but I am truly blessed by all the mother's that have influenced my life. Thanks mom for always being there and making life fun!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

me as a trail runner, part 2

Read part 1 if you missed it.

Remember how I became a trail runner one week and then decided to do a 16 (or 13 or 14 mile) treacherous trail race the following week? Remember how I didn't tell you how it all ended? Well, you obviously know I didn't die because I'm still here blogging away! However, I bet you're wondering what happened at the end of that race. Well, part 2 is now available, go check it out!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

celebrity autographs

With all the drama surrounding my attendance at the HRC gala, I almost forgot to talk about the most exciting part of the evening for me. If you know me, you know I'm a pretty big sports fan! I even discussed my dating life in relation to basketball. So, I was thrilled to learn the the Lakers were staying at the Grand America Hotel the same night as the HRC gala. That meant there might be a possibility of running into some of the players or coaches.

After the HRC event was over, I helped Jay carry all the items he'd won at the silent auction to his car. On returning to the party, walking down the hall was Phil Jackson! As we passed I congratulated him on a great win and Jay and I were on our way. Jay immediately asked why I didn't get his autograph. Well, I'm not that kind of girl. Yes, I'm a huge sports fan and I love the Lakers; however, getting autographs is not really my thing.

Throughout the course of the evening I spent some time with one of the assistance coaches (who was also a former player for the Lakers). I also got to meet a few of the other players, but unfortunately, no Kobe. I called my brother the next day to brag (he's an even bigger Lakers fan than I am!) He agreed with me about the whole autograph thing, it's just not really our thing. But then, he made this great suggestion to me. He shared with me the theory of a sports reporter. (I can't remember which one so I won't even try to speculate here) When you meet someone famous don't ask them for an autograph, ask the to record the message on your voice mail. What a great idea! Now, when everyone calls you, they know that you've met some famous person and convinced them to record your voice mail message.

This is probably one of the coolest ideas! It got me thinking--who would I want to record my voice mail message? I wasn't too disappointed that I hadn't thought of this on my own over the weekend. As much as I like the Lakers, with the possible exception of Kobe Bryant, there's really not one player on that team I'd like to record my voice mail. I'm an even bigger Dallas Cowboys fan! So, if I ever meet Troy Aikman or Emmit Smith I'll definitely be asking for them to record my voice mail.

What famous person would you want to record your voice mail and why?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

luckily, there were no bags on heads

Remember the wedding? The one where I made a gobzillion pies? Okay, maybe not a gobzillion, but a lot, you're right, it was only 22. It seems that Meggie finally got at least some of the photos from the wedding. And, I thought I'd post one of my favorites (of course I'm in it!)

Yeah, for some reason, we like to pick people up, especially at weddings. If I could find the picture from Mandy's wedding I'd post that--all the sisters actually picked up my pops (hey, Mandy if you have that picture, send it over!) I just love how happy we all look and its actually a great photo of all of us. And, even more importantly, I didn't have to wear a bag on my head. Meggie told me I might have to wear a bag on my head if I looked prettier than her---and I DEFINITELY didn't look prettier than her (at least not that day!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

just because it's in print UPDATE

Just thought I would provide a quick update regarding the lies published by the Deseret News. I was FINALLY able to talk to someone at the Deseret News. It only took about 10 emails, 5 phone calls and 4 voice mails before I actually got a live person. No, they didn't return any of my emails or phone calls. Regardless, I did finally talk to one of the editors responsible for publishing the lies about me.

The most interesting part, had someone actually checked their email remotely, the entire issues could have been avoided. (I guess EVERYONE was out of town and NOT ONE person has the ability to check their email remotely--seriously?!? This is 2010 I thought everyone checked their email remotely.) The article went online late Saturday night, but the actual article didn't appear in print until yesterday, May 12, 2010. Had even one person, the girl who wrote the article, any of the editors I contacted, the publisher, ANYONE, checked their email on Sunday or Monday or Tuesday they would have seen that there was an error, the correction could have been made and my name never would have been published in the newspaper next to lies about me. So instead of fixing the problem before the article went to print, they are now having to print a correction. I've seen the correction and it should appear in today's print version of the Deseret News. And, at about 1pm yesterday, the changed the information in the online article.

I am no longer being credited with the life of Jessica Blair.  She is now receiving the credit for her life and her work with the Human Rights Campaign. I'm just glad that this has finally been made right. We'll see if the Desert News comes through with an apology letter to me, as I've requested. Do you think its asking too much to receive a written apology from the managing editor, editor and publisher of the paper for their egregious error?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

me as a trail runner

My dear friend Rhielle is starting a race directing company. Her first race series will be a Park City trail series. I was thrilled when she asked me to be a guest blogger for her! Here is the first part of the series discussing how I became a trail runner. I'm not sure when part 2 will be published, but I'll definitely let you know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

just because it's in print, doesn't make it true!

Over the weekend I had the privilege of volunteering and attending the annual gala for the HRC organization in Utah. I arrived early in the afternoon on Saturday to help with the silent auction. I had no idea how much work went into one of these. I spent my time, writing up bid sheets, selecting starting bids and bid increments. I also helped to organize organize items on tables and make sure everything was ready to go for the VIP reception.

And then, I actually got to see the fruit of my labors, so to speak. Because I was also Jay Shaffer's guest and not just a volunteer, I got to attend the VIP reception and dinner. What a fabulous event! There were so many diverse and interesting people to watch, including a couple of drag queens! And, since I am not on the steering committee for the HRC, I was asked to talk to the Deseret News regarding my thoughts on the HRC and the evening. Little did I know what would eventually come of that brief conversation with Gina Barker.

The rest of the evening was a wonderful event. I got to sit at a table full of great people, some I'd met before some are new friends. There was great conversation and discussion at the table. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon received an award for his enactment of legislation regarding non-discrimination in the workplace. All told, it was a great event that I was honored to be a part of, thanks of course to Jay!

Sunday evening, I received a phone call from Jay who was laughing uncontrollably.  I would soon find out why. You see, the article in the Deseret News by INTERN, Gina Barker had been printed (yes, I'm emphasizing the fact that she is merely an intern) and Jay had just finished reading it. And, this is why he was laughing so hard as explained on his Facebook wall:

Jay Shaffer Surprise surprise - guess who just came out in the Deseret News last night? At the Hrc Utah Gala last night my friend, event volunteer and my dinner guest for the evening Melissa Stratton was approach by and spoke to the Deseret News briefly last night and somehow when writing the article covering the event they confu...sed Melissa with our very own Jessica Blair of HRC UT fame...and so with a slight pardon to and much, much respect for Jessica, I giggle and quote "Stratton, an Intersex lesbian..." I knew that if Mel hung around me enough and kept coming as my date to these things it was just a matter of time....ha ha

Wow!! Thanks Deseret News for the outing in the local paper. Oh wait, I'm not an intersex lesbian. In fact, when I spoke with Gina Barker and I also told her that I was a community supporter. And she then stated that she needed my sexual orientation, if I was alright sharing. I very distinctly said that I was straight. And, I'm pretty sure that "straight" and "intersex lesbian" aren't even close to the same thing.

Yes, the Deseret News did some seriously inaccurate reporting! So, I'd like to clear up a few point from the article about the HRC Gala.
  • I am not on the steering committed for the HRC
  • I will not be in Washington, D.C. this week to lobby for the repeal of the "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy
  • I am not an intersect lesbian
  • I was not raised as a male
  • I did not serve an LDS mission in the early '90s
  • My life partner is not JA Steel (in fact, as you know from reading this blog, I'm very, very single)
Fortunately for me, I have a good sense of humor and was able to get a laugh out of all of this. I still hope the Deseret News will correct their error. But, just in case they don't, I've taken the liberty of doing so myself. I also hope they give Jessica the credit she deserves for all her hard work. I am a supporter of the LGBT community, thanks is large part to my friendship with the amazing Jay Shaffer. I am also a very single and very straight woman! (just wanted to clarify in case there was any confusion).

**Post edit: Let me be clear, yes, I do find humor in this situation. Not because I truly think it is funny, because it's not! The article has been written and printed and there is nothing I can do to change that. I laugh and find the humorous side to this so I don't become completely enraged. I am unbelievable upset, hurt and even angered by this article. This article will live on forever and will always have my name associated with it. At some point, this article may prove to be damaging to me and my reputation. So while I may find some humor, it is laughter to prevent an utter breakdown and countless tears. What has been done by the Deseret News can never be undone; they should print a correction but how many people will see the correction? In print, I will forever be written as an intersex lesbian and those who don't know me personally will have no reason to not believe this statement. This is a grave error by the Deseret News and I only hope they do something to make it right.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

these are the numbers of my life

Ironically, I am not a numbers person. I hate math and can't do even simple calculations (unless there is a $ involved). I went into sales because there is little need for math, unless calculating a commission, bonus or the like (see previous statement). However, the other day I realized that my life is inexplicably immersed in numbers on a daily basis--I blame this on my incessant need to train for and compete in triathlons and road races.

Here are just a few of the numbers that I am continually obsessed with.
  • 64 resting heart rate
  • 182 max heart rate
  • 154 average heart rate
  • 171 max heart rate
  • 618 calories burned
  • 68 minutes workout and cool-down
  • 3 minutes left of recovery before the next interval begins
  • 90 seconds; that's all the further I am into this 10 minute interval?
  • 21 strokes; gotta get this down to 17 (wow my swimming sucks today!)
  • 5 more laps (or 25% left or 75% completed) until I get to rest again
  • 6 cookies eaten (how many calories is that? how many miles do I have to run to burn these off? note to self: no more cookies!)
  • 90 finally, only 90 seconds left in this 10 minute interval
  • 17 steps from my car to the house
Honestly, I could go on and on! I am amazed at the number of things I count on a daily basis--laps, miles, intervals, heart rate, ounces, calories, steps.  Maybe my brother has been right all these years, maybe I really do have OCD.

Friday, April 30, 2010

pies as far as the eye can see

A couple of weeks ago, my beautiful sister amazomeg got married. And, here's the proof:

Isn't she gorgeous? I've never seen her look more beautiful or happier for that matter. And, that dress, WOW!! Vera really does know how to design a gown.

When she got engaged back in December, she immediately began planning the wedding. Apparently, her cute husband loves pie. LOVES it! As in, hey its my birthday and it may be December, but I'd really like a strawberry/rhubarb pie and not cake kind of love. (According to Jonathan's mom, rhubarb is all but impossible to find in December and yet every year, she managed to find said rhubarb and make him the pie of his dreams!) So, they decided they wanted to serve pie at the wedding---and, that pie should be made by me.

You see, I fancy myself a pretty good baker. I've been known to say the only talent I have is the ability to cook and more specifically bake. I do make PERFECT cookies, just ask me, I'll tell you! (and, I think a couple other people will vouch for my successful cookie baking) With such extraordinary skill, its not uncommon for my siblings to ask me to do the food for their weddings. Amazomeg, being the amazing woman that she is, only wanted my services for pies. 22 pies to be exact. So, being the crazy/insane woman that I am (oh yeah, and there is that little thing about me loving and adoring my sister and being willing to do just about anything in the world for her--including baking 22 pies) I agreed to be the baker of pies.

Now, up to this point in my life, I've made about 20 pies. I only make pie at Thanksgiving. And, I claim that I've been making pies (specifically apple pie) since I was 12 (my mother will disagree with this and claim she didn't force child labor in the house--total lie, but I'm holding fast to this statement and I started making pies at the age of 12!) I was a bit daunted by the task of making an equal number of pies to the grand total I'd made in my entire existence. Fortunately, I had plenty of notice so I could continue to procrastinate the making of pies until almost the last minute. For those who are curious, here is what I learned about making pies:
  • It's always wise to have a sous chef around to do all the dirty work for you--peeling the pears, ladling the sticky sauce, retrieving ingredients because your hands are too gooey (thanks manderate)
  • If at all possible, keep a "dish washer" handy--unfortunately, my dish washer (aka, my pops) decided to leave the country with my mom to serve in the LDS Lima, Peru temple as a missionaries (all is forgiven as he did many a dish after the reception at the house)
  • It's wise to have something to entertain you while you will be in the kitchen for HOURS--Lucky is always good for a laugh (and complete destruction of the insides of low cabinets--she is only 18 months old!) 
  • I also got to watch this thanks to manderate owning it on DVD
  • Continually remind yourself that you agreed to this project and are doing out of LOVE
  • Trust that the cornstarch and gelatin will do their job properly (there were a few close calls, but all turned out in the end)
  • Admire the beauty of 22 pies lined up on the counter looking like a Martha Stweart ad (and remember to get your camera and take a picture--obviously something I forgot to do; hey, I was exhausted and just didn't care at that moment)
  • Graciously accept all the praise at the reception--they were seriously the most delicious pies I'd ever eaten!
  • Add to resume under skills--works well under pressure & can take the heat! And, makes perfect pies (not just cookies anymore)
  • Relish in the fact that you did indeed make beautiful pies for a wonderfully amazing sister (and her new husband) who is totally deserving of her perfect day!
So, if you're looking for someone to bake you perfect cookies or perfect pies for your special day, feel free to contact me. Just be aware that you probably can't afford my services, unless you're family or dear friends--I always cut them a deal!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

customer service, revisited

A while back I posted about my experience with Comcast and their customer service, Within moments of that post going live they had responded to my commentary on their organization. I was shocked (hello, I only have 5 readers!) and surprised and impressed that they would take the time to comment on a blog post regarding their organization. But, more importantly, they proved to me that even if I have had many frustrations with Comcast (honestly, that last post only skimmed the surface of my frustration with them) they are at least paying attention to what is being said about them. I'm amazed at the number of businesses that aren't aware of what is being said about them.

Until yesterday, I had never been to Spark--a Provo establishment that has been getting quite a bit of buzz. I've read reviews, heard good things, but just had never given it a try. Well, the other day I finally took the opportunity to try Spark. Let's just say I was underwhelmed. From the moment I arrived, I felt as if I was more of a nuisance than a guest they were glad to have.  (You'd think that with fewer than 10 people dining there in the close to 2 hours I was at lunch, they'd be thrilled to have some patrons--apparently, the rest of Provo knew something I didn't). I arrived a couple of minutes after my dining partner and we were the only two people in the restaurant. Yet, it still took the only worker (part hostess, part server) 5 minutes to come over and acknowledge us and finally offer us a table. When she did offer a table she mumbled and gestured toward an area of the restaurant as she walked past us to grab some menus. When she came back by, I told her I had no idea what she was saying or where she was gesturing for us to sit. I finally figured out that she was trying to tell us that we could pick a seat near the pillar, but that was certainly not clear to me from the beginning. While I appreciate being able to select a table when the restaurant is empty, it is still nice to feel like you are at the very least welcome in the restaurant (I didn't then or ever during that meal feel welcome at Spark) Needless to say, this lunch was off to a rocky start!

We were seated, poured water and given a few minutes to review the menu. Because I will typically do a quick internet search of a new restaurant before visiting, I knew Spark offers a daily 3 course lunch special. Our server didn't mention to us 1) that there was a lunch special or 2) what that day's special was--apparently, it was on a board in the front of the restaurant (and upon entering the restaurant, I walked right past and didn't even notice). My dining partner, on the other hand (who had dined there before and was obviously more aware of the strange protocol) told me what the day's special was (my dining partner, NOT our server; a task I would expect of any good server) and we both decided to go with the lunch special. The first course arrived--what we were told was apple soup. When we both inquired if there was butternut squash in the soup, she informed us that she honestly didn't know what was in it and said, more than once, "oh, its apple soup!"  (As a foodie, trust me there was some sort of squash in that soup!) The remainder of the meal proceeded without incidence. Our server was polite when we moved tables because of the horrible glare from the large windows overlooking University Avenue (however, since we were the only people in the restaurant when we were seated, it would have been nice if she would have seated us away from the glare! But, I forget, she didn't actually seat us nor recommend an ideal place to sit) Overall, it wasn't a terrible experience (the company was at least fantastic!), but it certainly wasn't a great experience either. Immediately after finishing my lunch, I posted to my Twitter account questioning if I should or shouldn't try Spark again.

had lunch @sparkprovo today. first time there & not very impressed. poor service & the food was only ok. is it worth another try?

There is a chance I'll give Spark another try, but I'll likely have to be talked into it by someone who's had a much better experience there than I have!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

a flat tire that got me thinking about my views on feminism

Today I woke up to this:

 And this:

Yes, that first picture is of snow. On April 22nd. As in a couple of inches of snow on the patio furniture. If you look closely (yes, the pictures aren't the greatest, I took them with my phone) you can see the valley in the background where there is no snow. Ah, the joys of living on the Provo bench. At least by now the snow has melted away and the sun in shining.

That second photo is a picture of a very flat tire. I knew this was coming. Yesterday upon pulling into the garage and exiting my vehicle, I swore I could hear air leaking out of my tire. I listened; I walked away, I came back and listened again; again I walked away. I was certain that I must be crazy because you can't actually hear the air leaking out of a tire. Well, guess what! You can actually hear the air leaking out of a tire and that photo is proof.

No worries, the tire is back in working order thanks to the help of AAA, AM/PM towing and Les Schwab tires. This whole situation (and a comment I made to the guy who came to change my tire) got me thinking.  Upon arriving and observing the tire, I told the guy that I could certainly change the tire myself (and, if forced to, I could) but why should I when I have a AAA card and can get someone else to do it for me. Such a non-feminist statement!

You see, back in college, I considered myself to be the ultimate feminist (not a difficult task when you attend BYU and every other girl you know is concerned with getting married and popping out babies) I took the feminist literature classes, supported all causes female related and swore I wouldn't get married until I was at least 25 (totally having to eat those words as I am far beyond those 25 years and still unmarried) I mocked the girls that were at BYU to only get their "MRS" degree and couldn't believe that someone would drop out of school for marriage and babies. And, had I ever heard of someone doing what I did this morning (calling someone else to change a tire) I would have thought she was a complete embarrassment to the feminine cause!

Fast forward to now; my new state of feminism. I'm perfectly capable of changing a tire, carrying a heavy box, lifting a mini-fridge off the shelf at Costco and loading it into my car; I just choose to not do these things. You see I've adopted a new attitude; why should I lift, haul, carry or change when I can get someone else to do it for me? I pay an annual membership fee to AAA so I don't have to change a tire, jump start a car or trek to get gas (as a side note, I've only run out of gas once in my life, when I was 16 and it will NEVER happen again. My father has taught all of us that you fill up with gas when your tank is 1/4 full--which really means, as soon as you're below the 1/2 mark, stop and get gas!) I've learned to accept help from stronger (and probably more able bodied) men in carrying items that weigh 50lbs or more or that are awkward. Like I said, its not that I can't do these things, I'm making a choice to not do them. I smile and say "thanks!" and (I like to believe) they were happy to offer me the help.

Its interesting how time, life and experiences change our perspectives. I still think of myself as a feminist, not the "bra burning" type of feminist so popular in the '60s and '70s, but a supporter of and believer in the ability of women. My new brand of "feminism" includes more of a feminine approach. I'm a girl who likes her high-heeled shoes, lots of lip gloss and being pretty. I also like being one of the guys and consider myself to be a pretty tough chick (I have been called "muscles" by my sisters!) I've even been known to let a guy order for me on a date (without biting his head off--which would have happened back in college!) But now, sometimes its nice to be able to sit back and let a man change the tire, carry the heavy box or even treat you like a lady and get a door for you or order your meal. I just hope they don't revoke my "feminist" card, because I still believe women have so much more than the amazing abilities of child bearing and homemaking to offer this world!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

so, i decided to google myself

And, do you know what I learned?

I'm on the first page of google, for real! (or F'Real) and with no effort. I must be an SEO genius! But in all seriousness, I am on the first page of google. And, its my twitter account (@runwithmel). I hope this leads to more and more people following me (because I am a Twitter whore!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

race day rituals

I have a love/hate relationship with race day. Obviously, I must love doing races because I pay good money to go and run or swim/bike/run crazy distances (well, crazy to some, sane to others) I started running marathons back in 1996 and since then have done 13 marathons, even more half marathons and countless 10Ks. Then, a couple of years ago I decided I should add triathlons into the mix. I've done far fewer of those, but one thing remains the same--how I feel about race day.

I've learned it doesn't matter if I've trained long and hard or not at all, I have this strange love/hate obsession with race morning. And, if I'm being honest, this anxiety and stress begins the night before race morning. I've got my pre-race rituals and my race day rituals. Any one who has witnessed this can attest to the insanity that ensues! Worst it ever was: Boston Marathon 2006. I seriously took an entire duffel bag full of running clothes and shoes (remember the days when you didn't have to pay for your checked baggage!) I wasn't sure what I would want to wear on race day and needed (wanted?) to be prepared. The night before the race I spent a good 30 minutes running up and down the hallway in our hotel trying to decide which shoes I wanted to wear. I then spent another 30 minutes laying out my clothes, organizing my nutrition, pinning my race number on my jersey and stressing out over whether or not I'd selected the right attire. At the very least I provided some great entertainment for my sisters.

Over my years of racing experience, I've learned I have to be a bit flexible about my pre-race rituals. And, along the way I've learned to have a bit of fun. Yes, I still get stressed and nervous before every race (who know what that's all about!?! It's not like there's cash or fame on the line; I'm certainly not a professional racer) However, I've learned that sometimes racing can just be fun.

I ran the Salt Lake half marathon over the weekend. (a race I always swear I'm never going to run again, but that's a different story for a different time) I headed up to Salt Lake on Friday night to hang with my dear friend @runnerrhielle (she's also starting a trail run series in Park City that you should totally check out). I must say, my entire pre-race and morning of race rituals were thrown off and it made for a great event!

Friday night, Rhielle, Ashley (her husband) and I all headed to dinner - and ended up eating Indian food. Delicious stuff, but definitely not what I would normally eat the night before a race. She graciously offered to let me stay at her house so I wouldn't have to make the trek to SLC from Utah County early Saturday morning. We stayed up much later than I anticipated watching shows I don't even care about (sorry all you Survivor fans!)

Saturday morning we had to get up bright and early. Now, for those that know me, you're aware that I am known to wake up as early as 4:30 to get in a morning workout. For some reason, 5am on race day seems far earlier than a 4:30am training wake-up call. And, because Rhielle is a pre-race/pre-workout eater, I decided I should eat a little something before heading to the race (half a banana and toast w/ honey--if you were wondering) And then, it was time to hit the road and this is when things became far more fun than any other race morning. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I had food in my tummy, the early hour or that I was with a good friend, but I just couldn't help myself.

As you know, I've recently become a twitter junkie. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was my continual plotting of an exit strategy from the race, maybe it was the fact that I had my phone along for no logical reason (unless I was considering actually live tweeting the entire race) or maybe it's just because everything about race morning is conveniently 140 characters long. Regardless of the reason, I just couldn't stop myself. Everything I declared, I would then loudly proclaim "TWEET!" (you know, as if I were actually sending out all these expressions via Twitter)

"I don't see any 26.2 stickers. What's up with my peeps" TWEET
"Seriously, you're going to make me walk how far to catch Trax to the start?" TWEET
"I just spotted my favorite thing - people wearing the race shirt to the race!" TWEET
"You know how I feel about LOLing" TWEET
"I honestly hate this race. Why do I continue to run it every year?!?" TWEET

"You'd think they could figure out the whole 'bag drop' thing. I know I could do a better job" TWEET

OK, looking over it things definitely aren't as funny in the light of day as they were in the early hours of Saturday morning. However, I have great memories of those predawn, pre-race hours with Rhielle. Our antics only continued for the first half of the race; she went on to run her faster pace and left me to continue to TWEET on my own (OK, it was only in my head, but it did help me make it to the finish line.) And being the dear friend that she is, she was waiting for me right as I crossed the finish line. It was great seeing her soon after finishing (I needed someone to celebrate my small victory with!) I definitely think we need to make this race (the dinner before, the sleep over and the pre-race rituals) an annual tradition. Just next year, I think we can skip the Kneader's breakfast so soon after the race!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

let them eat cake

Recently, the Cookie celebrated her 9th birthday. I can't believe the girl is getting so old! It wasn't that long ago (ok, its been 5 years but it seems like just yesterday!) that she and I would watch the Food Network together, decide if the meal looked "good enough to eat" and then do the shopping and the cooking. We had a great time! (Probably one of the highlights of living with my brother, his wife and their then only 3 kids)  Since her mom was very pregnant with #6, I offered to make the Cookie's birthday cake.

She wanted a chocolate, chocolate chip cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chip garnishes. Yes, this was the request of a 9 year old girl. Initially I tried to convince her that it was way too much chocolate and perhaps we should have just plain buttercream frosting (because that wouldn't be as rich!) Being the wonderfully sweet and kind girl that she is she agreed that this compromise would be acceptable. And then I realized something, why should she not have exactly what she wanted on her birthday! Who cares if there would be people at the party who aren't lovers of chocolate and wouldn't eat the cake? Should it really matter that what she wanted was so rich and decadent that most people would eat a very small amount or none at all? Within moments of convincing her to change her order, I went back to the original plan and agreed to a chocolate, chocolate chip cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips as garnish.

Later that day, after I'd headed home and began thinking of which recipes in my arsenal I would use, I realized something. You see, I'm a people pleaser. A people pleaser to a fault! I will forgo my favorite meal in order to meet the needs and likes of other people (even on my birthday). I will compromise on the dessert I want because someone in attendance doesn't like a certain ingredient. I will give up items that I like or want because I perceive that someone else wants them more than me. I am a total people pleaser and at times, I hate this quality! I'm not condoning selfish behavior nor am I condoning always giving into the wants of others. Yes, life is about compromise but sometimes, ESPECIALLY on your birthday, you're allowed to be selfish and put your needs first. It is something I struggle with and something I am working on in my life.

I learned something very valuable from the Cookie. You see, she didn't act selfishly or even complain when I asked her to make a compromise. She was so willing to give up her wishes, even on her special day. But I realized, why should my people pleasing ways infringe on her desires. She knew what she wanted and because it was her special day, she didn't care what others would think. So, I made her a triple layer chocolate, chocolate chip cake with cream cheese chocolate frosting and a chocolate chip garnish. I arrived at the house the day of her birthday (with at cake that weighed in at close to 10 lbs - no joke!) The look of sheer joy on her face when she saw the cake made all my hard work worth it. It was EXACTLY what she wanted! The cake was unbelievably rich; most people couldn't even finish their tiny pieces. And, even those who claimed to HATE chocolate proceeded to eat an entire piece.

If you were wondering, she's already requested the exact same cake for her birthday next year! And, I'm working on being a people pleaser only 90% of the time (instead of my usual 99.5% of the time)!